It’s time for another edition of What I’ve Been Drinking Around D.C., where I showcase some of the memorable libations and recommended highlights I’ve encountered over the previous few weeks. There’s plenty to cover, so let’s jump right in.
Station Kitchen & Cocktails
When the Embassy Row Hotel revamped this March, they also debuted Station Kitchen & Cocktails, a shared space dining concept connected to the hotel lobby where, depending on the time of day, you could pop in for a coffee or a quick snack, a few late night cocktails, or on the weekends, brunch.
The brunch drinks caught my eye, including the trio pictured above: the Milk Punch, with salted caramel and walnut infused bourbon, honey lemon balm syrup, and milk, topped with a syrupy Belgian waffle square; the Punch Romaine, with rum, sparkling wine, lemongrass syrup and OJ, and the “Negroni”, a bottled cocktail with gin, Cynar and apricot liqueur.
Of course, if you ordered the Milk Punch, you technically already had some breakfast to go with your drink. But in terms of actual brunch food, there are plenty of standout options as well.
There are more than half a dozen large sandwiches available with various tasty topping combinations, and another dozen entree plates with hearty portions. The lineup on the menu is hard to narrow down, so there’s plenty to try, and the funky, modern design of the space — take your choice of tables, various couches and chairs — makes for a good change to the brunch routine.
Matchbox is in the midst of rolling out a new seasonal cocktail menu. Already available at the 14th St. location, the other D.C. area locations should all have the revamped lineup available by the 28th of this month.
New cocktails include the Bourbon Crisp, with bourbon, apple cider, lemon, cinnamon syrup, and orange bitters; the Opposites Attract, made with vodka, grapefruit, thyme syrup, and Lagunitas IPA; the Jalapeno Cucumber Margarita, with jalapeno-infused tequila, Patron Citronge, cucumber, and lime; and the Red Umbrella, with aged rum, coconut, pineapple, OJ and nutmeg.
Popular standouts from the existing menu remain though, including the (pictured) Southern Charmer, with bourbon, peach nectar and black pepper-ginger syrup, the Patio Pounder Lemonade, with house infused watermelon vodka, lemonade, and fresh watermelon; the Rum Thyme with rum, falernum syrup, lime, and thyme syrup; and the Cucumber Gin + Tonic, with American gin, cucumber, and Jack Rudy tonic. Happy hour cocktails are just $7.
Elsewhere on the drinks menu, the Matchbox Infusions are always a good bet. At just $8 no matter the time, you can try half a dozen different options, including the (pictured) Jalapeno margarita, with jalapeno-infused tequila, Grand Marnier, OJ and house-made sour mix, or the Whiskey Smash, with mint-infused bourbon, lemon and lime juices, and house-made sour.
Dram & Grain
There’s always exciting cocktails to check out during a visit to Dram & Grain. While they continually roll out new menus, some staples remain regardless of changing seasons. One such go-to is the Ode to Omaha, made with Thomas Tew Rum, strawberry cinnamon syrup, Jerry Thomas bitters, and smoke from burnt orange tea leaves.
The smoke is sent to a sort of corked top beaker glass, which has been chilled, via a hosed smoke machine. The contraption may remind you of something which has recently been legalized in the District, and the aroma from those burnt tea leaves actually, surprisingly, reinforces that.
Nevertheless, while the glass is topped with that cork, its cold temperature would actually keep the smoke in even without it. It’s all poured over ice for your enjoyment, providing a resonating smokey essence from start to finish, which manages to mingle well with the other flavors rather than overpowering the drink.
You can spend weeks exploring the cocktail menu here, but another libation may catch your fancy is A Maryland Divorce. It’s so named for featuring one current Maryland distiller, rum from Lyon Distilling, with a prominent Maryland brand which is, alas, now made in Kentucky — Pikesville Rye Whiskey. The cocktail also includes a “pina” shrub, lime and ginger beer, and as the temperature drops, could be your ticket to wishing it all away and imagining your were somewhere beachside instead.
The Science Club is now delivering on its name with a lineup of science-themed cocktails from their “Cocktail Lab” — not to mention a poster of Neil deGrasse Tyson proudly hanging beside the bar as well.
The Cocktail Lab offers up another smoking drink, in the Carbon Copy. Here, it’s used for a bubbly, smoky effect rather than having an impact on the flavor, and the drink is made with Russian Standard Vodka, hibiscus tea, pineapple syrup, and lime bitters.
Stay on the science track with the Breaking Bad, a take on a classic Sazerac, or The Bill Rye, with Copper Fox Rye Whiskey, Carpano Antica and Campari, both served in 200 ml beakers. Or, opt for the Science Club Initiation, with white rum, apple and cranberry juice, and rosemary simple syrup, served in a shooter sized, chilled 75ml test tube. As the menu notes – “teams encouraged”. Go find some study partners!
George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon recently unveiled a new limited-edition release, George Washington Distillery Single Malt. It was distilled three years ago by a Scotch whisky all-star team, including Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie, John Campbell of Laphroaig and Andy Cant of Cardhu.
The three used the distillery’s traditional, vintage style equipment to produce a very small batch of American-made single malt whisky. The result was actually two separate batches; the first was distilled only once — the trio tried it and agreed it was so good it should simply be barreled — and the second featured a more classic for Scotch double distillation. The whiskies were finished for their final four months of aging in Madeira casks. The short supply will be auctioned off.
Stay tuned for more details in a forthcoming story on Distiller!
Lastly, and I’m clearly breaking my own rules here, but this past weekend during a stop in New York, I checked out Betony, and got a glimpse of their awesome, high-end cocktail program….
Before even getting to their cocktails, I happened upon a bottle of pre-Prohibition, 1909 Overholt Rye Whiskey. A family stash was recently discovered, and several cases worth of the century old whiskey is heading off to auction via Christie’s, a prominent auction house.
I was simply in the right place at the right time to try a dram. With whiskey that old, it can be a crapshoot in terms of whether or not the spirit has kept up and been properly stored. In this case, it absolutely had, and proved to be a delicious blast from the past. The Betony team even worked up a 1909 Overholt Old Fashioned with a bit of the now 106-year-old whiskey.
Moving onto what you can actually find on the menu, there’s a diverse array of cocktails to suit any palate. Everything they do is made in-house, from hand-shaved ice in the drinks, to homemade gomme syrup, and Irish cream and coffee liqueurs, and the service from the entire bar crew is exceptional.
From left, above:
- The Rifflin’ Dixie, made with white whiskey, triple sec and mint;
- A beautifully done rendition (I’m someone who should know) of the Pisco Sour with Macchu Pisco. Here, that house gomme arabic syrup provides the foam some real holding power, almost taking it to to the realm of a soft dessert meringue;
- The Rye Switchel, with rye whiskey, ginger, maple and Amaro CioCiaro;
- and The Dude, a highly amped up take on a black or white Russian, with bourbon, rooibos cream, cold brew coffee and cascara. – Believe me, the dude would abide.